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March 23, 2015

Women’s History Month: Celebrating the Lives of Addie Wyatt and Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta, via doloreshuerta.org

Dolores Huerta, via doloreshuerta.org

The third week of Women’s History Month gives us an opportunity to pay tribute to Addie Wyatt and Dolores Huerta, two extraordinary women who were shaped by the Great Depression, fought for workers’ rights during the height of the American Feminist Movement, and changed the face of organized labor.

Addie Loraine Cameron, better known as Addie L. Wyatt (1924 –2012), was born in Mississippi and moved to Chicago with her family in 1930.  When she was 17 years old, she married Claude S. Wyatt, Jr.

She began working in the meatpacking industry in 1941.  Although she applied for a job as a typist for Armour and Company, African American women were barred from holding clerical positions and she was sent to the canning department to pack stew in cans for the army. Due to a contract between Armour and the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA), she earned more working on the packinghouse floor canning stew than she would have made working as a typist, and joined the UPWA after learning that the union did not discriminate against its members.

In 1953, she was elected vice president of UPWA Local 56. In 1954, she became the first woman president of the local, and was soon tapped to serve as an international representative. She held this position through the 1968 merger of UPWA and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen until 1974, when she became director of the newly formed Women’s Affairs Department. In 1970s, she became the first female international vice president in the history of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen and later served as director of its Human Rights and Women’s Affairs and Civil Rights Departments. She served as the first female African American international vice president of the UFCW after Amalgamated and the Retail Clerks International Union merged in 1979.

She and her husband were ordained ministers and founded the Vernon Park Church of God in Chicago.  She played an integral role in the civil rights movement, and joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in major civil rights marches, including the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the demonstration in Chicago. She was one of the founders of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the country’s only national organization for union women. She was also a founding member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the National Organization of Women.

In 1984, Addie Wyatt retired from the labor movement as one of its highest ranked and most prominent African American and female officials. In honor of her work, she was named one of Time magazine′s Women of the Year in 1975, and one of Ebony magazine′s 100 most influential black Americans from 1980 to 1984. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists established the Addie L. Wyatt Award in 1987. She was inducted into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor in 2012.

Dolores Clara Fernandez, better known as Dolores Huerta, was born in 1930 in New Mexico, and grew up in the farming community of Stockton, California. She earned a teaching degree at Delta Community College.  During that time, she met her first husband.  She later married Ventura Huerta. In the early 1950s, she worked as an elementary school teacher, and many of her students were the children of farm workers who were living in poverty.  Teaching the children of farm workers had a profound impact on her, and in 1955, she became one of the founders of the Stockton chapter of the Community Services Organization (CSO), which worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and fight discrimination.  Through her work at the CSO, she met Cesar Chavez.

In 1960, she helped create the Agricultural Worker’s Association (AWA), and in 1962, she and Chavez launched the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), the predecessor to the United Farm Workers Union (UFW).

In 1965, she helped to organize the historic Delano Grape Strike and consumer boycott against growers of table grapes in California.  The strike involved thousands of grape workers and was a significant victory for the UFW—leading to a first contract with these growers. In 1967, the NFWA combined with the AWA to create the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. During this time, she negotiated contracts for workers, fought against the use of harmful pesticides, and advocated for unemployment and healthcare benefits for agricultural workers. In 1973, she led another successful consumer boycott against California grape growers that resulted in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which allowed farm workers to form unions and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Dolores Huerta stepped down from her position at the UFW in 1999, and established a foundation where she continues her work to improve the lives of workers, immigrants and women. She has received many honors for her activism, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

To learn more about Dolores Huerta, follow her on Twitter (@DoloresHuerta) or visit her foundation’s website at http://doloreshuerta.org/.

October 31, 2014

UFCW Applauds OSHA’S Effort to Protect Poultry Workers from Musculoskeletal Disorders, Hazardous Workplace Conditions

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C.The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement regarding OSHA’s decision to exercise the seldom-used “general duty clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to protect poultry workers from workplace injuries or death.

“The UFCW applauds OSHA’s decision to use the “general duty clause” to protect poultry workers from dangerous workplace conditions, including exposure to unsafe machinery, risk of falling and musculoskeletal hazards.  The UFCW also commends OSHA’s efforts to look into practices that result in the failure to manage the medical treatment of injured poultry workers and maintain an accurate record of those injuries, resulting in an artificial injury and illness rate that is used to benefit the poultry industry at the expense of the safety of its workers. The UFCW believes that the safety awards presented by the National Chicken Council and other industry groups to member poultry companies for outstanding safety performance should be reconsidered since OSHA’s findings show that the poultry industry has the ability to conceal the extent to which poultry workers suffer from work-related injuries and illnesses.

“The UFCW represents workers at poultry plants across the country, and our union has called attention to the many dangers poultry workers face every day, including ergonomic health hazards.  While the UFCW has been successful in curbing some of the workplace abuses in this industry, too many poultry workers do not have a collective voice on the job and continue to toil in low-wage jobs that threaten their health and safety.

“All poultry workers deserve better workplace conditions, and the UFCW urges OSHA to establish a National Emphasis Program to protect poultry workers from the health and safety hazards that are specific to this industry.”

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 The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

October 29, 2014

UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill Honored for Efforts to Help Walmart Workers

imageLast week, UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill was honored by the UMass Dartmouth Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center during their annual awards banquet.

For 35 years, the center has served “as a bridge between working people, their communities, organizations, and UMass Dartmouth.” Their awards and dinner banquet are one of the largest gatherings of labor leaders and activists in the area.

The Southeastern Massachusetts labor movement joined the center in honoring UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill for his work with the UFCW’s Walmart campaigns.

“I am honored to accept it on behalf of the 1.3 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union,” said Pat as he accepted his award.

He continued:

Brothers and sisters, we are at crossroads in the labor movement. There is no sugarcoating it.Workers are struggling to make ends meet. More and more families are falling behind. Income inequality is getting worse. Minimum wage workers are living in poverty. Hard working immigrants are still living in the shadows.

But in too many corners of our movement, labor is trying to address 21st century challenges with 20th century solutions. It is not working. Some will tell you we need more time—that things will get back to normal eventually.

I say if you’re heading toward a cliff at 100 miles an hour, you don’t need more time. You need a change in direction. That is why I am so proud of our dynamic and forward-looking Walmart campaign.

There are those who say Walmart is too big, too entrenched, and too powerful. That we don’t stand a chance against the world’s largest retailer.

Every important battle for justice has had its share of naysayers. It is always easier to analyze than to mobilize.

Here is what I believe—when we stand together and work together and fight together and dream together—there is nothing we cannot achieve. Last week, Walmart workers and their allies sent shockwaves across the country. They shut down Park Avenue in front of Alice Walton’s $25 million penthouse. They set up a blockade of K Street in front of the Walton Family Foundation in Washington, DC. And they delivered thousands of petitions to the Phoenix home of Walmart Chair Rob Walton calling on the company to give workers $15 dollars and full-time hours. The media coverage surrounding these events was substantial and a clear message was sent to the Walton family and Walmart executives: workers will not be pushed around.”

UFCW Locals 1455 and  328 were in attendance to support Pat as well.

 

October 17, 2014

Member Spotlight: Jerry Knapp

IMG_7253Recently, long-time UFCW Local 1500 member Jerry Knapp was recognized for his years of active service to his union and fellow union members by Region 1, and was awarded with a member award along with several other members who have made a difference in their workplaces. He was taken aback when he learned he was being recognized, Jerry said, but it was nice to know someone knew he existed. After talking with Jerry, it was clear to us why someone would take notice of Jerry and his time in the UFCW:

Since 1966, Jerry has worked as a union member at Shoprite in Fishkill, New York. Working as a department manager at one time, he is now happily employed as a clerk as he nears retirement. In 1994, Jerry was named the Primary Shop Steward at his store–a role in which he still has today. Jerry says that his job “is a good job because of the union,” and that as UFCW members, he and his coworkers aren’t abused or taken advantage of, and they earn good pay and benefits.

But Jerry knows that these things that make a good union job good are only obtainable when people are active in their unions. Jerry has attended countless area meetings, participated in the negotiating process, and been there to advise fellow members on their rights and responsibilities. Being active and engaged, says Jerry, enables union members to have a say in what happens on the job, to choose your lifestyle, and have your career needs and desires heard, as opposed to working for a non-union company that can make promises and change their minds about policies at the drop of a hat. With a union, he notes, you have the right to go back to the bargaining table.

Not only is Jerry involved in his workplace, but in the wider community and Local as well. Jerry has helped other folks achieve the union difference through his organizing efforts, and he has worked to help elect politicians who will represent and look out for the working people in his area. Jerry’s peers have noted that his work has not only earned him the respect of his coworkers, but of management as well. It’s clear that at the end of this year when Jerry goes into retirement, which will be his 49th year of service in the union, he will be dearly missed at work by all.

His advice for others that want to get more involved in the union is to ask themselves what they think they need or want out of their job or in the workplace, and then go after it. If you don’t take advantage of the power you have as a union member by negotiating or working together, notes Jerry, then you don’t have the right to complain.

“Don’t sit back,” he says. “The union starts with ‘U’!”

October 7, 2014

Member Spotlight: Towanda Carter

towandaTowanda Carter was recently recognized by UFCW Region 1 for her outstanding service as a union member and for helping her fellow workers, both at her own workplace and elsewhere.

After noticing unfair treatment of workers at her job working at Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens Inc. in 2005, Towanda and her coworkers filed to unionize with the UFCW Local 888. Her strong morale and sense of member engagement among her colleagues helped them win their first union contract in 2006.

Towanda says that working in a metroarea at a non-profit revealed to her how people are often mistreated at work, especially when they are vulnerable. Although she works for a charitable faith-based organization, management had a very anti-union stance.  The Workers were under-paid, demoralized and lacking adequate company health care–leaving many to seek charity care. Many could not provide for their families without assistance from social welfare programs. That’s why Towanda was so adamant about spreading the word about the benefits of being a union member.

Years later, Towanda is a Chief Shop Steward, representing her fellow union members on both the Bargaining and Labor Management Committees. She has also expanded her efforts to help working people throughout her community, not just her own workplace.

As a Medical Coordinator serving the less fortunate for twenty years, Towanda has been a voice of justice for her fellow union members since the beginning. She has seen her coworkers through countless grievances and group grievances, and mediations and arbitrations–all as part of their ongoing struggle to keep their employer accountable to the collective bargaining agreement they all worked so hard for.

Towanda says she was surprised to learn she had been picked to be recognized for a member award, but honored as well. Her advice for other members trying to ensure that workers have respect on the job and at the bargaining table? “Be proactive. Be active!”

Union members and activists like Towanda make our union strong. Standing together, we can all make a difference.

July 7, 2014

UFCW Members, Family Members Awarded 2014 Union Plus Scholarships

UnionPlus Logo LargeUnion Plus recently awarded $150,000 in scholarships to 116 students representing 39 unions, including 10 winners representing the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), in the 2014 Union Plus Scholarship Program. In this 23rd year of the program, more than 5,300 applications were received from union members and families in all 50 states. This year’s UFCW winners are:

  • Brittany Androsko of Weedsport, N.Y., who is a member of UFCW Local One, has been awarded a $500 scholarship.
  • Brianna Berry of Florence, Ky., who is a member of UFCW Local 75, as is her father Michael Berry, has been awarded a $2,000 scholarship.
  • Amber Boyce of Orland Park, Ill., who is a member of UFCW Local 881, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Megan Byrne of Chicago, Ill., who is a member of UFCW Local 881, as is her mother Eileen Byrne, and whose father Joseph Byrne is a member of UFCW Local 1546, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Robert Clifford of Romeoville, Ill., whose father Robert Clifford is a member of UFCW Local 1546, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Casey Cooper of Greenville, Mich., who is a member of UFCW Local 951, as is his father Ken Cooper, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Robyn Jordan of New York, N.Y., whose mother Laura Jordan is a member of UFCW Local 400, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Lynne Rader of Bethpage, N.Y., who is a member of UFCW Local 1500, has been awarded a $4,000 scholarship.
  • Datavia Sherman of Washington, D.C., whose mother Janet Sherman is a member of UFCW Local 400, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Martha Solis of Frederick, Colo., whose mother Dora Solis is a member of UFCW Local 7, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

“There are a lot of benefits to being a union member. Economic security is number one, and education is the first building block. Education sets up our kids for success, leadership and happiness,” said Leslie Tolf, president of Union Privilege, the organization behind Union Plus benefits and the scholarship program. “By awarding these scholarships we level the playing field – everyone deserves an equal shot at a quality education. We help union families feel just a little more secure in embarking on successful lives.”

Meet the 2014 UFCW Honorees

Brittany Androsko
Brittany is studying for a job in medicine. While maintaining excellent grades she has also found many ways to give back to her community, including volunteering at the local food bank, at retirement homes and on highway cleanup projects. Brittany followed in both her parents’ footsteps by becoming a union member, and she is glad she did. She quotes her father who often says, “Working together and sticking together is what makes a union strong and powerful.”

Brianna Berry
Brianna is a hard worker, but she is also a student, and sometimes those priorities collide. Last year, for example, she was invited to participate in the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, a three-week summer program that is an honor to attend. Many jobs would have required she make a choice, one or the other, but UFCW ensured Brianna could attend the program and still have a job waiting for her. Brianna is planning to major in chemistry and become a doctor.

Amber Boyce
Amber’s very first job was a union job with UFCW! That’s not a typical experience for many high-schoolers today, with so many young people often working for minimum wage and worse, and it sure made an impression on Amber. “Being in a union assures my family and me that I will always have a fair contract with my employer,” she says. The good wages she earns as a union member are helping Amber save for college; she’s planning to major in chemical engineering and spend her career making consumer products better and more eco-friendly.

Megan Byrne
Megan’s many volunteer and service commitments attest to her strong desire to help others. So does her career aspiration: she wants to become a physical therapist. Of course, Megan understands that good physical health begins with safe working conditions, and that’s why she’s grateful for the protection and job safety UFCW has provided to her, as well as to her both her parents. “My parents and I are proud to be part of a union,” she says.

Robert Clifford
Today many industries depend on computers to operate. Robert wants to work in the medical field, but not as a doctor – instead, he is majoring in computer science with the goal of designing programs and software that can help save lives. Of course, industries also depend on skilled workers, and that’s why Robert is proud to be part of a family with a strong union history, including his father in UFCW and many uncles in their unions. “Most of my family has made a living and survived in the working world thanks to the unions,” he says.

Casey Cooper
“Like father, like son,” Casey says. He followed his father into UFCW and has been grateful for the good wages and benefits that come with holding a union job. Yet, Casey also sees the hardship many other people face, including customers who work hard but still need food stamps to purchase their groceries. He is planning to major in social work and help people to receive all the rights and liberties to which they are entitled, he says, “such as a livable wage, a family, property and happiness.”

Robyn Jordan
Robyn is a graduate student with a vision for improving people’s lives. Having completed her undergraduate work in two majors, Hispanic studies and nutrition, she has now begun studying for a graduate degree in public health, which she hopes to follow with a medical degree and a career spent improving and saving lives. Robyn feels that the extraordinary education she has received, from Catholic schools to the Ivy League, would not have been possible without her mother’s more than 30 years of hard work and good pay as a member of UFCW.

Lynne Rader
Lynne’s career goal is to become an optometrist and travel to the developing world to provide treatment for vision problems. Her many volunteer and service commitments – such as being a Girl Scout Leader, and raising money for water relief programs in Africa – have helped to prepare her for this career, and so has her work as a member of UFCW. “My job has helped to shape who I am today,” she says. “I have learned not only invaluable interpersonal skills, but I have also had the opportunity to work with customers and coworkers of various cultures, religions, perspectives and socio-economic backgrounds.”

Datavia Sherman
Datavia enjoys the prospect of solving problems, gathering clues and protecting her community. She’s studying criminal justice, and hopes to become an FBI agent someday! There are many challenges ahead of her, including completing her degree and meeting all the physical requirements to become an agent, but she is confident she can make it. “I want to put criminals away,” she says, “so that the world can be a safer place to live.”

Martha Solis
Martha, a nursing student, has faced many challenges on the course to completing her education. “The road to college can be even more complicated for a first-generation student like myself,” she says. “My family is Hispanic and many of them have never been able to pursue an education.” And while Martha deserves much credit for her hard work and achievements, so does her mother who has spent 18 years as a member of UFCW and created opportunities for her daughter. Martha is grateful not only for her mother’s good pay and benefits, but also for the way her mother and her coworkers at Safeway pitch in to support the community.

Learn More About the Union Plus Scholarship Program

Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school or a recognized technical or trade school. Since starting the program in 1991, Union Plus has awarded more than $3.6 million in educational funding to more than 2,400 union members, spouses and dependent children.

In addition to the scholarships, Union Plus also offers the following benefits to help union families afford higher education:

  • Discounts of 15 to 60 percent on college and graduate school test preparation courses from The Princeton Review. Discounts are available for classroom, online and private tutoring for the SAT®, ACT®, GMAT®, LSAT®, GRE® and MCAT® as well as college affordability and admissions online courses. Visit UnionPlus.org/CollegePrep or call 1-888-243-7737.
  • Discounts on textbooks – Save 5% or more when you rent or buy textbooks. New, used and digital textbooks are available. And, you get free shipping on orders over $59.  Visit UnionPlus.org/Textbooks.
  • College Counseling Discounts: Union families can save 15% on college counseling from Collegewise, the admission division of The Princeton Review. College counselors help high school student find, apply and attend the correct college. Visit UnionPlus.org/CollegeCounsel for more information.

Union Plus is committed to helping union members and their families fund their college education.  They have recently introduced two NEW programs to help members pay down their student loan debt:

  • $500 Student Debt Eraser – grants to help Union Plus Credit Card, Mortgage and Insurance participants pay off their student loans. Visit UnionPlus.org/DebtEraser for more information.
  • $20K Student Loan Giveaway – All union members can enter by August 15 to win up to $10,000 to pay off their student loans. Visit UnionPlus.org/Contest for more information.

Visit UnionPlus.org/Education for applications and benefit eligibility.

Union Plus also provides a wide range of money-saving benefits and services for Union members and families, including discounts on all-union AT&T wireless service, a credit card and mortgage with unique financial assistance, savings on travel and recreation, and more. To learn more, visit UnionPlus.org.

February 12, 2014

Lanette Edwards of Local 1625 Teaches Boy Scouts About the Labor Movement

Lanette Edwards, of UFCW Local 1625 in Lakeland, Fla., is teaching the Boy Scouts what the labor movement is all about.  Last year, Lanette held a class with over 30 Boy Scouts, where she talked about American Labor merit badge.  The American Labor merit badge was introduced in 1986 to the Boy Scouts of America; however, over the past several years, this merit badge has been earned less frequently by scouts.  Lanette has made every effort to help the Boy Scouts in her community learn about the American labor movement and revitalize this merit badge within Local 1625 and her local Boy Scout Council.

The American Labor merit badge

american_labor_merit badge coverLanette taught the Boy Scouts about the history of the labor movement, as well as the organizational structure of the UFCW and AFL-CIO and opportunities in the field of labor relations. The National Boy Scouts of America Community Services Committee, in recognition of Lanette’s significant contribution to the Boy Scouts of America, was awarded the AFL-CIO’s Wood Badge scholarship which will assist selected union members in acquiring skills that will better equip them to serve the youths in their communities.

Lanette was awarded the George Meany Award by the Boy Scouts of America and West Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, for her work in teaching youths about the American labor movement.

July 18, 2012

UFCW Members, Family Members Awarded Union Plus Scholarships

January 28, 2011

UFCW Awards $20,000 in Medical School Scholarships

Washington, DC – The trustees of the Patrick E. Gorman Scholarship fund have selected Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, T.N. as recipients of $10,000 scholarship awards, the United Food and Commercial Workers announced today. Mr. Gorman was the late President of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butchers Workmen of North America, one of the predecessor unions to what is now the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers across North America.

“The Amalgamated Meat Cutters had a long and proud history of fighting for the rights and needs of the working men and women of North America, including the need to provide adequate health care to all Americans. The UFCW now stands as part of that long tradition,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

In the spirit of Mr. Gorman’s dedication to further advancing the education of medical students, Howard University College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College will award the scholarship money to worthy students who are in financial need.

To learn more about the UFCW’s work in communities throughout North America, visit http://www.ufcw.org/take_action/.

April 28, 2010

UFCW, JBS get labor-management award

UFCW, JBS get labor-management award, Business First, April 16, 2010